STOM, Matthias_La Cena de Emaus, c.1633-1639_ 375 (1976.66)

 A long day had drawn to an end and it was twilight again. Fading lights scrambled through the dusty paths as they neared the quaint quiet village of Emmaus. Like the moon set against the darkening skies, a fire illuminated their hearts not their eyes. It was the radiant reflection of the ‘Stranger’ who had opened the Scriptures to them. The seven-mile journey had culminated and the temple town of Jerusalem seemed distant on the hills.

Jerusalem, the centre of action, was now the hub of bitter memories. It was here that the hailing Hosannas had crumbled to the cacophonous cries of ‘Crucify Him’. The ‘things’ of the near past had crushed their hearts. Their hopes were dashed against the empty tomb. As faith gave way to fear, crestfallen and confused they walked away from the happenings of the day.

Treading down the road, they attempted to seek sense in the events. Soon a ‘Stranger’ sought them. He slowed his pace to listen to what they had to say and retraced their steps through the Scriptures. Ironically, He who appeared to know nothing, helped the two downcast disciples make sense of the meaningless happenings. Their slow and stony hearts were now burning as the Stranger watered their withered spirits.

The destination drew near, not their wills. The disciples urged the Stranger to stay with them pleading, ‘Abide with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over’ (Luke 24:29). Revealing not His identity to them, He who deigned to walk their path, mile after mile, now agrees to abide for the night. At dinner-time, the tables turn, and He who is the guest now becomes the Host.

Inspired by the Biblical account, Matthias Stom captures this climatic moment with utmost veracity in his fantastic painting titled ‘The Supper at Emmaus’. The narrative seemed dear to the artist’s heart as he worked upon eight other versions of the same subject. Stom deploys still life to unfold a moving, living story. He locates the scene in a tenebrous dark room illuminated by the dancing flame of a stationary candle placed at the centre of a small table.

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